Kadokawa on Women and Labor Law
HK Employment Conference Report
Japan Occ. Safety & Health Center
Auto Industry Shunto Results
Foreign Unionists Protest Ministries
APWSL-Japan Activity Report
All at once it
happened - Continental
Micronesia, Inc.(CMI) , based in Houston, Texas,@ presented a
new restructuring package to 34 Japanese flight attendants in
late February. The package includes early retirement, called
"Early Out", or annually-based contract work for up to
five years, called "Fly for Five", for all Japanese
attendants who have served five to sixteen years.@ These
developments are especially alarming considering that the parent
company, Continental Airlines, Inc., is expected to start flights
to Japan in June, 1998, and then plans to launch an official
business here in November, 1988.@ Continental Airlines, Inc.
holds 100% of the shares of CMI.
On February 23, 1998, CMI confined all of its Japanese flight attendants in a hotel for seven hours and forced them to accept the package. The proposal came down like a thunderbolt on them.@ They became united, and established a union, which is a local of the Zenrokyo National Union of General Workers (NUGW)Tokyo District (Union), on March 2, 1998.
The union requested collective bargaining with CMI immediately after its establishment, but the management tried not to recognize the union, and notified union members that CMI would cancel the flight schedule assigned to them after March 16 and replace them with American attendants, and finally ordered them to stay home. Since CMI may threaten them with dismissal, the union filed an application for provisional disposition of their security of employment status with the Tokyo District Court as follows: 1.@ The employment and working conditions of Japanese employees working for American airlines are exposed to instability while a storm of deregulation is sweeping the airlines industry. The early ret irement and disadvantageous modification of working conditions forced on them by CMI is most typical of the deregulation attack, which inevitably leads to the violation of Labor Union Law and Labor Standards Act, or perhaps even no rule of law at all.
2.@ Flight attendants require
sufficient expertise and professionalism to meet any@
emergency. However, the idea that using employees at the lowest
cost is of high priority is now prevailing in the airline
industry owing to fierce competition. It may result in service
deterioration, causing a big problem from the viewpoint of
security or safety.
3.@ In CMI, even pregnant employees often have been forced to work as flight attendants or to retire. Now female employees are becoming disposable targets, under the slogan of "Young is enough". It is at once a serious invasion of women's rights and it fits exactly the nature of CMI's policy which includes forced early retirement and annually-based contract work.
4.@ If the above-mentioned CMI package rejected by the union were put into practice, other airlines would follow CMI's policy, and they would take the initiative in changing current labor standards for the worse, although a bill to revise the Labor Standards Law opposed by workers, unions, intellectuals and a few political parties, has not yet been passed. Therefore, we must note that the labor situation at CMI is linked to the rights of all workers.
CMI still holds firm to its restructuring package, and refuses to listen to the union, although it has@ reluctantly recognized the union. However, the CMI union is determined to fight until it can make the company withdraw the package.
[Akimoto Yoko is a member of the steering committee of APWSL-Japan and of our editorial committee.]
<caption A demonstration in
front of the head office of
Continental Micronesia,Tokyo, March 20, 1998.
We are running the following write-up of an interview with Kadokawa Toshiko by the staff of AMPO, an English quarterly put out by the Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC) in Tokyo, with their permission.@ Ms. Kadokawa, an employee of an insurance company in Tokyo, is one of the national coordinators of APWSL-Japan and a long-time women's and labor activist.@ Last year she wrote the special feature for our newsletter assessing the impact of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law ten years after it was passed in 1986 (see No. 24, February 1997).@ Subsequently, some revisions to the labor laws pertaining to women workers were passed by the Diet,which may be made even worse by further revisions currently under consideration by the Diet.
Ten years after the enforcement of
the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) in 1986, an agreement
was reached to strengthen this notoriously ineffective law,
though this was done as part of an agreement that also included a
major set of revisions to the 1947 Labor Standards Law (LSL).
These changes are scheduled to go into effect in 1999.
The pre-revision LSL includes special clauses forbidding women from working beyond a certain number of overtime hours, as well as from performing late-night work, but these protective clauses were abolished in the revisions. Thus, the new regulations will treat men and women equally, with the only exception granted to women during pregnancy. The current law allows women to work 150 hours of overtime a year (compared to 360 for men), and prohibits them working from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
However, there are now plans for another set of revisions to the LSL, which were approved by a Cabinet meeting on February 10, and are expected to go through the Diet.@ This new set of revisions includes a discretionary work system, which allows companies to lengthen working hours at their discretion, and a provision for flexible working hours. Under these rules, workers will be allowed to work for ten hours a day. It will also permit short-term contract systems, thus providing more fluidity to the labor market.
The new changes are being welcomed by employers' associations, but opposed by most trade unions, including RENGO, Japan's largest national trade union federation. There is near unanimous opposition to the more recent proposed changes to the labor laws by citizens' and labor groups in Japan, but the early changes that accompanied the EEOL revision have been more controversial.
Although many women have been pushing for changes in the EEOL ever since its enactment, there are major divisions on issues relating to the revision of the LSL. Some women, and in particular labor activists, see the revisions to the LSL as a major step backward in the working conditions of women, while others, and particularly career-minded women, accept the proposition that in order for true equality to be achieved, men and women need to be treated as equals in order to be regarded equally, even if women are forced to shoulder a heavier work burden.
Kadokawa Toshiko, a women's labor rights activist, summarizes the situation as follows:@ "In order to achieve equality, it is true that the laws must look at men and women equally. The revisions may be a step forward in equality for women in the workforce, but unfortunately they represent a decline in the working conditions of women. What we are demanding is an improvement of men's working conditions to allow them to share family responsibilities and to help preserve their health. Equality should be based on improved, not worsened conditions. These improvements should include shorter working hours and better social security benefits."
One of the arguments put forward by advocates of the change, and particularly by employers, is that allowing women to work at night will open up new work opportunities for them.@ However, Kadokawa pointed out that in certain areas, such as food packaging, where many women are employed, the employers would like to use night labor (because the food would be fresher) but cannot because of the restrictions in the LSL. If the law@ changes, she is concerned that women would continue doing the same jobs, but that the working hours would in some cases shift from day to night work. In addition, night-time work is more stressful than daytime work, and she worries that these new opportunities may harm women's health conditions in the long run.
In fact, it is ironic that the revised LSL will allow women to work longer hours, given the fact that Japan is known internationally as a place where workers have to work longer hours than in other industrialized countries, and where the term "karoshi", or death from overwork, is commonly known. Up until today, karoshi has mostly occurred among male employees, but with the expansion of allowed overtime hours and late-night work, there is some concern that the phenomenon could spread to women workers as a means to deter employers from breaking the law..
One of the essential problems with Japanese laws is that they are created only after the fact.@ In many other societies, and especially in Europe, laws are established based on a vision for the future. However, in Japan, the reality changes first, and only then do new laws get established. Thus, they fail to do any good, as the damage gets done before any protective action is taken.
A clear example of this system of law making can be seen in the revisions made in the EEOL. Through its revisions, it is evident that some acknowledgment has been made of the existing problems in the workplace. However, legal punishments have yet to be implemented as a means to deter employers from breaking the law.
When asked about the changes that need to be made in order to improve women's protection in the workplace, Kadokawa answered that the totality of social and family structures needs to be altered, and that more women need to be put in positions of responsibility, from where they can push for changes.@ She pointed to affirmative action or quota measures as means that can help push this forward.
The new laws affect women and their rights in accordance with men's working conditions, but the long term penalties and situations are the main structures that need to be changed and reviewed.@ The new laws may give women equality with men, but the exchange for this equality means giving up more rights that employees should be granted.
Because of this, as Kadokawa foreshadows,"The working situation is going to get much more difficult in the long run.@ In order for women to attain equal rights, they also need to obtain basic rights that protect them as employees."
I attended an international
conference on social security held in Hong Kong in early March
upon the recommendation of the Center for Transnational Labor
Studies.@ The conference focused mostly on employment issues,
under the theme of "Asian-Pacific Perspectives on Employment
Policies for the 21st Century".@ Over forty people
participated, including activists, academics, and policy experts
from Hong Kong, China, Macao, India, Pakistan, Thailand,
Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Canada and Britain.
Unemployment has become a serious social issue in most "advanced" countries since the 1980s.@ The unemployment rate is already over 10 percent in European countries. This represents a big loss of human resources, and it has brought about an increase in the cost of social services and security, and weighed down on national finance as well. In Asian countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, the unemployment rate is also increasing, and similar issues have risen to the surface. Thus, the purpose of the conference was to discuss how employment policies, including training for employment, the protection of workers, the creation of jobs, should be established.
@I found one more meaning in the conference as I participated in the discussion:@ the conference gave us an opportunity to try to find out how we can build an employment security system based on labor laws and social security as a result of the new labor relations caused by the Chinese market-oriented economy. As you know, we can see labor disputes so frequently at many multinational corporations which have penetrated into China after the country adopted an open-economy policy, and employment issues are becoming more serious as state-owned companies are closing up shop or being privatized.@ What steps China should take concerning labor issues is an urgent problem for the country, and such issues have a great influence on labor competition in Hong Kong.
Participants from China, Thailand, and Hong Kong made keynote speeches. The Thai participant gave a speech on "Industrialization and Effect on the Working Class". Thailand's export-oriented industrialization under the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) depended greatly on the cheap labor of women or children, but villagers also flowed into the cities, and as a result it drained the rural areas and expanded the difference in wealth drastically. The decline of the baht and financial crisis last July was the end result of the bubble economy accomplished through such process. Thailand cannot win the low-wage race any more. The dismissal of workers, the instability of employment, including subcontracting or temporary employment, and decreasing wages are common in the textile or electronic industries.. She pointed out that it was important to apply laws or rules to working hours and industrial accidents strictly, together with employment security.
The report from Hong Kong, entitled "Employment and Development of Human Resources in the Recession," emphasized that employment issues of workers in Hong Kong were closely linked with what was happening in China. The Chinese entry into the market economy and Hong Kong's return to China made a radical change in the economy of Hong Kong. The contribution of manufacturing industries to GDP in Hong Kong used to be high, but most of those industries have moved their operations to China, so now the construction industry accounts for 40 percent instead. Workers in Hong Kong have lost their jobs, and even if they are lucky to find a minor job afterwards, they face the threat of losing it to new workers who migrate from China. Workers in Hong Kong cannot catch up with the rapid change of the circumstances, even if they are provided with job training for new industries or jobs. The speaker said that the government should develop labor-intensive and lasting industries such as education and social services.
After the keynote
speeches, we divided into three workshop groups. I joined the
third workshop on "Considering Employment issues from the
Viewpoint of Gender". What we were most concerned about was
the effect of the globalization of the economy on female labor.
Jobs have been segregated by gender through industrialization
everywhere, and women have been treated unfairly. Furthermore,
the situation of female employment is deteriorating more markedly
as a result of globalization and industrial restructuring.
Recently the feminization of labor is often talked about.@ It
is true that the number female workers has increased, but women
are still treated as a cheap labor or casual workers.@
Globalization has given birth to a new international division of
labor. The borderlessness of capital has led to bitter
competition for low wages, and thus it is forcing companies to
worsen their working conditions due to the intensity of
international competition, and the threat of capital flight is
being used to harass trade unions.@ Female workers are always
the first to be targeted.
One Chinese participant reported that the market economy had increased job opportunities and improved production techniques in some regions, however it has brought about ruthless competition. Elderly women are discriminated against because they are old, and young women are shut out of the workplace due to maternity protection. I talked about a problem of the deregulation of labor laws, that is, changing labor laws for the worse, as an urgent issue facing Japanese workers. I realized that the Japanese situation was exactly the same as what was happening in other Asian countries.
At the workshop, we discussed how we should cope with those issues. We managed to arrive at the conclusion that first, we should make a review of labor laws and policies, study ways to improve the social security system, and present policy proposals to our governments; second, we must organize female workers and strengthen our relationships with trade unions; and third, we should make multinational corporations draw up codes of conduct to be observed by them regarding the rights of workers and working conditions and set up a system to monitor them around the world. [ This article was translated by Akimoto Yoko.] @
by Takahei Masahito
The organization was
already in existence as of May 1990.@ Sohyo and Churitsu Roren
(union federations) had created the Japan Occupational Safety
Center (JOSC) and Chuoh Tansan was funding it.@ When Sohyo was
dissolved to become part of Rengo, the JOSC was also disbanded,
as were many local level JOSCs.@ Since Rengo had no intention
of setting up new JOSCs, some of the remaining JOSCs, which had
kept their activities alive without any union backing, got
together and talked.@ After two years, they decided to create
their own network.@ They formed the Association of Institutes
for Community and Occupational Health in Osaka, which has what
you might call a sibling relationship with JOSC.@ This center
moved to Tokyo and opened the present Japan Occupational Safety
and Health Resource Center (JOSHRC).@ Back then I was working
for the Kanagawa Prefectural Work Hazard and Occupational Disease
Center.@ I was asked to be the director of the new center for a
three year period, and I have been the director ever since.
Right around that time, an independent advisory committee, the Labor Standard Law Research Committee, proposed a large-scale revision of the Unemployment Insurance Law, which would have weakened it by, among other things, setting a limit on unemployment benefits of one and a half years regardless of conditions.@ The Committee specifically made their move at a time when we were too poorly organized to do anything to oppose them. But Tansan, Prefectural Hyogikai (local coalitions of unions), Local Occupational Safety Centers and the Labor Law Lawyers' group saw how bad the committee's proposal was, and managed to stop them before it became a bill. At the final stage, we and the Committee attended a hearing, and we halted their move by managing to show that there were critical problems in the Committee's report.@ Through this process, we formed our network, which gave us lots of confidence and led us eventually to create a national role for the Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center.
The most important activity is publishing our monthly magazine, which we do for the purpose of compiling and disseminating information.@ We also provide educational training.@ For example, we have Occupational Safety Schools at the local level, which incorporate our philosophy in their training.@ That is, instructors do not lead courses, but encourage participants to develop solutions by themselves from their own experiences.@ We call this type of training the "enabling approach."@ Every year in East Tokyo, around thirty people spend three days and two nights in training, and then inspect real job sites on the last day@ This way they can notice the fine points involved in good on-site safety practices, and come up with solutions when they find problems.@ Professional instructors remain solely advisors.
Thirty percent of work-related accidents are traffic accidents.@ The rest are on-site accidents such as falling from high buildings or getting fingers caught in press machines.@ Other occupational hazards include lower back pain and strained backs.@ Traditional industrial hazards like dust-related lung damage and repetitive motion disorders are also common.@ Relatively new problems include karoshi (death from over work), mental stress, and occupation-related cancers.@ These cancers are a problem that is just emerging 20-30 years after the actual work people did in 1970s when all those hazardous chemicals were being widely used. A typical example is asbestos, which causes lung cancer and mesothelioma.@ Asbestos-related diseases are one of our biggest problems, and the issue has become an topic of concern internationally.@ France, for example, recently became the eighth country in Europe to ban the use of asbestos.@ In Britain, too, it has become a big controversy.@ Nobody realizes this, but Japan is completely unique in the world in remaining a major consumer of asbestos.@ In time, the entire EU is going to shift to ban the use of asbestos.@ In the United States, the EPA tried to ban the use of asbestos in the 1980s, but their proposal was defeated because the US and Canadian industry sectors and the Canadian labor unions opposed it and filed a suit against them.@ Nevertheless, asbestos use in the States had dropped to virtually zero Ρ less than 30,000 tons a@ year as early as ten years ago. Japan still uses 200,000 tons a year, a huge amount by world standards.
In 1989 before this Center
was officially formed, our Doctor Yoshiomi Tenmyo was invited to
the Asian Occupational Safety and Health Workshop in Hong Kong.@
Our second chairperson, Mr. Masazumi Harada, has communicated
with a wide range of people in Asia regarding the Minamata
Disease (a disease caused by mercury poisoning). Through these
contacts, we have developed strong ties with Asian countries.@
In particular, we exchanged human resources with Hong Kong and
India, and three times with South Korea.@ We have come to
realize that every country has an organization like ours.@ The
United States has more than 20 Committees for Occupational Safety
and Health (COSH).@ Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and
Italy all have institutions quite similar to ours.@ Europe
holds the Work Hazards@ Confer-ence every two years, and we
have represented Japan three times.
Our exchanges with Asia and Europe strengthen my opinion that our work has a lot in common with theirs. In the case of the asbestos problem, for example, it was a great help to us to know the history of Europe's efforts to tackle the issue, a history which the Japanese press had more or less ignored.@ Conversely, we thought that the information we had accumulated might be useful to people in other parts of the world, so we started to publish an English newsletter in 1992.@ Also, we opened a web site on the Internet last spring. (http://www.jca.ax.apc.org/joshrc/)
We started our relations with our Korean counterpart when they asked us for information to help them create a Karoshi Consulting Center.@ We went there right away and did what we could.@ But as a matter of fact, their record on winning court disputes regarding Karoshi is far superior to ours.@ The Korean Democratic Labor Union went on strike last year and fought not only for wage raises but also the right to refuse jobs involving high risks, although Japanese press only reported it as awage dispute.@ Likewise, people in countries throughout Asia want to get information on our activities, thinking that Japan must be ahead of them, but more often than not they have gotten better results. So we have come to rely on international exchanges a great deal these days.
[This article was translated by Wada Yuko and revised by Tim Stuhldreher. ]
A seminar on the health of workers and residents living near a Japanese owned ship-dismantling facility in Cebu, Philippines held on February 12, 1998.@ Furuya is sitting in the left.
Every year from February
to April, Japanese labor unions organize their customary annual
wage raise offensive.@ The Japan Auto General Labor Union is no
exception.@ This year, all the major auto companies returned
their wage decisions to the labor unions on March 18.@ Related
subcontractors and auto parts manufacturers will then refer to
the decisions made by major auto companies and set their own
annual wage rise accordingly. Thus, the two-tier structure of
Japan's leading industry is consistently reflected not only in
the production routine, but in the labor unions' wage raise
battle as well.@ Or at least this has so far been the case.
"A wage hike would stimulate consumption and lead to economic recovery," was the position taken by the Japan Auto General Labor Union.@ Yet, the union could not make a breakthrough against the vigorously defended argument, "Maintaining employment is more important than a wage hike," presented by the managerial side.@ Not only that, demand for shorter working hours met no response at all except for the Toyota, Daihatsu, and Yamaha Auto Companies.
The negotiations took place at a particularly difficult time for the industry. In 1997, Japanese auto manufacturers suffered a decline in new car sales for the first time in four years ; production went below 5 million cars (excluding small-sized cars).@ Faced with an excessive number of employees and facing this declining demand for cars, all auto makers have been cutting their temporary work force to cope with the reduction in car production.@ The currency crisis in Southeast Asia was another blow to the industry.@ The auto makers that expanded their business into the region are facing devastating drops in sales.@ Mitsubishi Auto Co., for example, is projected to suffer a 110 billion yen loss in its consolidated accounts this year.@ Ever since 1980, Japanese auto makers have strived for and even competed with each other to expand business in the global arena.@ However, as it turns out, that very effort has created an industry highly susceptible to the changes in economic conditions occurring in the rest of the world.
Moreover, a movement to break traditional business practices in Japan has emerged, which threatens the previously stable dual structure of the industry.@ Urged by the need to boost car sales, auto makers have started to demand price cuts for auto parts from parts manufactures, and have begun seeking business with subcontractors from outside their business networks.@ Japanese auto makers build cars by buying 75% of the parts of each car from outside and assembling them to make a complete product in their factories.@ To facilitate the process, each auto maker has cultivated parts suppliers of its own and put them under its corporate umbrella, forming the so-called keiretsu (vertical alliances of companies).@ Until recently, ties between auto makers and parts suppliers were solid, but now they are coming apart.@ Apparently this move of the auto makers is modeled on the restructuring methods used by General Motors and Ford in the early 1990s.@ They expelled parts manufacturing sections from their corporate groups and made the section independent so that they would have to compete with other parts companies.
With this fundamental structural change in the auto industry, what is not yet clear is how the Japan Auto General Labor Union sees this transformation and is going to cope with it, and what effect it will have on the activities of individual labor union members.
by Wada Yuko and edited by Tim Stuhldreher.]
On March 2,
1998 the Sixth Annual Foreign Worker's Day of Action was held in
Tokyo.@ In the morning, members of several unions with a large
foreign worker membership participated in demonstrations outside
companies where employers refuse to bargain in good faith.@ In
the afternoon, demands were presented to various government
ministries overseeing laws affecting foreign workers in Japan.@
This year's Day of Action was special in that it was attended by
foreign union members from around Japan and a special forum was
held the day before to report on each union's activities and
highlight their concerns.
To give a clearer idea of what issues foreign workers are facing in Japan, the following is a translation of the demands presented to each ministry with a summary of their responses and discussion. @
1.@ Advise employers to
provide the years income statement "gensenchoshuhyo" to
employees during the period required by law.
2.@ There are many instances of employers embezzling tax refunds of employees who have overpaid taxes as a result of the income tax withholding system.@ Conduct an investigation and revise the system for returning over-collected income taxes.
3.@ Punish employers who violate Article 242 Section 6 of the Tax Code.
The Ministry claims that
it holds annual information sessions every December for employers
to explain how to handle tax matters for employees properly.@
They also emphasized that they do not have the power to enforce
laws, only to recommend that companies follow them.@ When told
that they have the power to investigate a company for tax abuses
as a preliminary step toward prosecution, a spokesperson said
that they do not have the resources to investigate all such
employers.@ The leader of one union stressed that such
tax-related abuses of undocumented foreign workers are pervasive
and should be looked into more seriously.
1.@ Do not set a term
limit on the employment of foreign teachers working at national
and public schools.
2.@ Do not advise private schools to set term limits on the employment of foreign teachers.
3.@ Do not allow national and public schools to contract with private sector companies for lessons.
4.@ Advise the Tokyo Foreign Language College to settle the dispute involving the firing of 16 union members.
A spokesperson for the
Ministry said that there is a 3-year limit on the employment of
foreign teachers at public junior and senior high schools because
it is intended to be part of a cultural exchange program.@
There is a danger that teachers who stay longer might become too
accustomed to their situation and this would diminish their
value.@ The Ministry representatives stressed that they have no
influence over hiring decisions at private and local governmental
schools, only national universities.@ In principle, they have
no objection to the hiring of foreign faculty members.@
Furthermore, universities have been advised to higher younger
candidates only when there are candidates with similar
qualifications.@ Decisions relating to the renewal of contracts
should not be based solely on the age of the teachers.@ It was
suggested that the hiring of dispatch teachers by schools may be
illegal and the Ministry requested more information on this
1.@ With regard to
foreign workers, thoroughly apply and implement the labor
Standards Law, the Industrial Accident Insurance Law, the
Employment Insurance Law, and all labor regulations. 2.@ During
this last one year period, concretely explain what steps you have
taken to apply and implement labor laws and regulations. 3.@
There are many instances of bankruptcies and employers escaping
from their obligation to pay wages.@ Also, there are many
violations of Article 37 of the Labor Standards Law, which deals
with overtime, extra payment for holidays and late night work.@
These laws need to be properly and quickly administered and
implemented. 4.@ Thoroughly implement the law guaranteeing
minimum daily and monthly wages. 5.@ Quickly and properly
handle violations of Article 20 of the Labor Standards Law which
deals with dismissal allowances (30 days notice or 30 days pay).
6.@ As always, many instances of workplace accidents remain
hidden. 7.@ Delays by the ministry in providing reports
acknowledging deaths and injuries, and false applications by
employers for industrial accidents have resulted in employers
embezzling payments for victims of workplace accidents.@ The
Labor Ministry should take effective measures to establish how to
place responsibility for these problems. 8.@ Educate employers
to not handle foreign workers in a discriminatory way. 9.@ Do
not extend the period of time for which a contract can be made.@
(Maximum length of@ most contracts is for one year.@
Contracts for longer than one year are treated as having no
term.) The Labor Ministry representatives said that they conduct
a survey of foreign workers' problems every June.@ They read
some data gathered from last year but refused to show or give
anyone a copy of the information.@ They said that most of the
problems we mentioned should not happen but that some employers
do not follow the law.@ They clarified that the proposed
revision of the Labor Standards Law to extend the term limits of
employment contracts is intended only for highly skilled workers
on project teams such as scientists and researchers.
@ 1.@ For those who enroll in social insurance pension plans for more than 3 years, increase the amount of money that will be returned to them if they leave Japan to return home so that the amount returned will increase according to the length of time that they paid into the system. 2.@ Conclude treaties with various countries regarding the transfer of pension system payments. 3.@ Make clear what the actual situation is with regard to foreign workers enrolling in the social insurance program, and advise employers to allow foreign workers to enroll. 4.@ Make clear what the Ministry is doing to under-stand the actual health situation of foreign workers.
spokespeople said that they have considered the possibility of
treaties for the transfer of pension payments with other
countries but that such agreements are rare.@ All foreign
residents are entitled to enroll in the national health insurance
and pension programs if they intend to stay in Japan for one year
or more.@ However, it was pointed out by several union leaders
that the several hundred thousand undocumented workers feel
insecure about the possibility of being deported under the
present registration system. [This article was prepared by John
McLaughlin. The demands to the Ministries were translated by Mike
APWSL-Japan national committee has been very busy these past few
months preparing for visits this spring and summer by labor
activists from Thailand and Aotearoa/New Zealand.@ The Thai
delegation will be visiting Japan from May 23 - 31, arriving in
Osaka, stopping in Nagoya and Hamamatsu, and leaving from Tokyo.@
One of the participants is a worker at the Thai Suzuki plant,
where there was a big strike and lockout in 1996 which was never
fairly resolved.@ He will be visiting the Suzuki headquarters
in Hamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture on this trip.
The group from Aotearoa/New Zealand will probably visit Japan in July.@ It will include two members of a union at a lumber mill in the far north of the country owned by Nikken Jusho, a Japanese TNC, where there was a labor dispute last year.
Also, a representative of APWSL-Aotearoa will come to Japan with them. Before that visit, Yamasaki Seiichi, secretary-general of APWSL-Japan, will visit Aotearoa/New Zealand as an interpreter for a delegation from the Zenrokyo Postal Workers Union who will be visiting New Zealand from May 13-20 to study the effects of privatization on the postal service there.@ It is not too much to say that through APWSL the exchanges and ties between Japanese and New Zealand workers have continued to deepen a lot over these past several years.@ In fact, it is probably a well-known "secret" by now that one of our members, Hasegawa Minoru, is studying English in Dunedin,a city in@ south New Zealand,from this April.
The gender equality study group has met twice since February to read about and discuss topics such as the American women's labor struggles and sexual harassment in the Japanese workplace with experts and activists.@ This effort has been successful at attracting more female members and younger members as well educating the older men in the group.
A presentation on the People's Summit held at the time of the APEC Summit in Vancouver last November was held in Tokyo in March.@ APWSL-Japan members who attended (Akimoto Yoko, Totsuka Hideo, Araya Yukie) gave reports of the sessions they attended as well as follow-up reading they have done since then.@ Afterwards there was a lively discussion about how Japanese workers should deal with globalization.@ There were many differences of opinion and a sense that this issue has to be discussed and debated more in the labor movement here.
APWSL-Japan is co-sponsoring a seminar on the Japanese labor movement which is being offered through the Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC) inTokyo from May to July.@ In February, the Japanese translation of Coping With the Miracle:@ Japan's Unions Explore New International Relations, by Hugh Williamson was published.@ The seminar will focus on a chapter from his book each week for 10 weeks.@ Mr. Williamson, a British citizen based in Germany, will be visiting Japan at the start of this seminar and will also speak at meetings co-sponsored by the Center for Transnational Labor Studies and APWSL-Japan in Tokyo and Osaka.@ Topics include "A Comparison of the International Activities of Japanese, North American and European Unions" and "The Possibilities for International Solidarity between Asian and European Unions in the Face of the Asian Economic Crisis". [This report was written by John McLaughlin and edited by Yamasaki Seiichi.] @
We@ would like to thank
the several people from around the world who responded to our
readership survey in the last issue.@ We are pleased that all
you find the newsletter useful and would like to continue
receiving it.@ Although we have changed our editorial focus to
include more news on women workers, foreign workers and
labor-related NGOs, we promise to deliver as much labor movement
news as possible.
We were able to thanks those people who responded by e-mail but we would like to thank everyone who responded here:
The Support Committee for
Maquiladora Workers, San Diego, California
TIE-Brasil, Sao Paolo, Brazil
GATT Watchdog, Christchurch, Aotearoa (NZ)
Australia Asia Worker Links, Fitzroy, Australia
Mike Parker, Detroit, Michigan
Punnyavi Gunevatue, Nagegoda, Sri Lanka
Christine Hayes, Osaka, Japan
a school in China (we can read the characters but not pronounce them)
@If you have not sent in the survey yet, please do so by fax, e-mail or post until mid-July when we have the annual general meeting for APWSL-Japan.
have noticed that we have gone back to using photographs from
this issue.@ Although we do not have the technology to
reproduce them very well, we have included them at the request of
some Japanese readers who suggested that although they cannot
read the whole newsletter, they may be enticed to look at more if
their are photos and captions.
Also, to lighten up our newsletter a little, we have included some political cartoons for the first time ever.@ The cartoon on the back page was drawn by Tim Stuhldreher for a monthly English newsletter aimed at foreign workers and residents in Japan called The New Observer.